Possible US attack on Syria: public opinion doesn't matter - expert
Do you think the US-led intervention in Syria will stir up anti-American sentiment in the Arab world, in Europe or elsewhere?
I think yes, I think it is one of the unintended consequences of US military action, is that it tends to reduce respect and credibility for the US throughout the world, particularly in the last decade or so in the Middle East.
I was just looking at a poll by James Zogby, the notable American pollster who takes a lot of surveys in the Middle East and this is a poll from July, and Egypt, a country where the US doesn’t have any intervention, the US stands at 1% popularity and Obama himself – 3%, and that is a marked departure from 3 years ago, or more than 3 years ago when Obama had a great popularity in the country.
And the US seeks to lessen the actions by what they are calling “leading from behind” as they did in Libya, and it doesn’t work. Everybody suspects the US hand in anything negative that is happening in the region today.
In your opinion, why does the US Administration refuse to take into consideration the fact that a sizable part of the American population is against the military strike against Damascus?
I don’t know that the US considers what the population thinks, even what its military establishment thinks because consistently in the Syrian conflict the US military top commanders had advised against the intervention in the country warning most recently general Dempsey that the price tag of any intervention even if it is a surgical strike would be in the billions.
So, I don’t think the US considered even its military establishment, let alone the population. In fact that is such a trend across the western world right now, it was quite amazing that David Cameron, the Prime Minister of the UK, backed off after a House of Commons vote. The popular sentiment was really low.
I think financial difficulties also played a real role whereas it didn’t on Iraq more than a decade ago. It is not clear why the US establishment does not pay attention to popular sentiment but I suspect it is a problem now again because of economic situation and which is why Obama may have tossed this over to Congress where he can at least be sure of funding for his actions if he chooses to go ahead.
Right now the US Congress is about to make a decision – yes or no. What is your forecast?
I think the US Congress is the least responsible American institution, that doesn’t stop anyone because it is a collective vote. I think president Obama is trying to work the Congress and different interest groups like Israel and Saudi Arabia would really like the US strike, so ultimately it doesn’t really matter because the vote has no binding effect on the president. He ignored a vote against US intervention in Libya as Clinton did with Kosovo.